This week marks 1,000 days since the Saudi-led coalition launched a bombing campaign in Yemen. What followed was the world’s worst cholera epidemic and horrific human rights abuses on the ground yet Yemen has been dubbed the forgotten war because much of the world has ignored it.
Data gathered by the Yemen Data Project and released this week shows that since 26 March 2015, when the war began, 15,489 coalition air raids have hit the country and nearly one third of these have targeted non-military sites. In the first half of December alone, 33 air raids targeted residential areas.
The UN says that more than 60,000 people have been killed or wounded in the war whilst Unicef fears 150,000 children could die by the end of 2017. Some 2,200 people have died of cholera yet, despite the desperate humanitarian crisis, Saudi coalition raids continue to target healthcare sites.
Across the border in Saudi things aren’t quite so impoverished. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) – who led Saudi into the war on Yemen – was named this week as the new owner of the most expensive home in the world, a $300 million French chateau where the fountains can be controlled by iPhone and guests can enjoy a luxury cinema and swimming pool.
The 54,000 square foot Chateau Louis XIV is part of a string of extravagant purchases made by the prince that were revealed by The New York Times earlier this week. Among them was a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting destined for the Louvre Abu Dhabi and a $500 million yacht.
Back in Yemen, some people live on a piece of bread a day, if that. Others walk for several miles to buy food products, some search the rubbish dumps for scraps. Given MBS’ recent spending, it’s a sickening contrast. As journalist Samuel Oakford has said, MBS’ combined purchases could fully cover the unfunded portion of the UN’s humanitarian plan for Yemen.
The UK piped up earlier this week to warn Saudi that it could be in breach of international law for blocking food and fuel shipments to Yemen. It has also pledged a further £50 million ($66.7 million) worth of aid to counter the human tragedy.
But none of this means anything given that Britain is fully backing the war on Yemen by selling £4.6 billion ($6.1 billion) of arms to Saudi since the war began. Not only are British made weapons killing Yemeni civilians but Britain also provides Saudi Arabia with intelligence to target attacks in Yemen and trains Saudi forces.
It’s unlikely that members of the British government can empathise with a starving Yemeni. At home they are making drastic cuts to public services despite the fact that child poverty is growing, there is a surging homeless population and many rely on food banks. Yet Theresa May has just found £50 billion ($66.7 billion) to pay the Brexit divorce bill and offered a £5 billion ($6.7 billion) tax giveaway to the banks.
The 1,000 day anniversary will soon be lost amidst the festive season as talk turns to the best Christmas jumpers of 2017. Meanwhile, the people in Yemen will spend their Christmas being slaughtered by relentless bombs.